Bomb squad blows up suspicious bag that closed Broad Street

Posted: August 06, 2007

A hefty leather bag left on a Center City sidewalk this morning led to the evacuation of the school district's adminstration building and the closing of several blocks of Broad Street, as police waited for the bomb squad.

As events unfolded, a picture emerged of an innocent act by a weary woman possibly triggering the series of dead-serious, precautionary measures.

After learning about the bag shortly after 6 a.m., police blocked off Broad Street to vehicles and pedestrians between Spring Garden and Callowhill Streets.

By 8 a.m., the bomb squad had arrived, parking its truck in front of the Inquirer Building, next door at 400 N. Broad. An officer whose head and body were covered by a heavily padded suit walked a yellow cable toward the satchel. Soon, two other bomb squad officers at truck were examining X-rays.

Just before 8:30, the bomb squad blew up the bag.

Following policy, police declined to say whether the bag contained explosives - or the discarded possessions of a passerby.

One observer said he heard a bomb squad member remark the bag contained only "a bunch of crap."

According to David Bell, a security officer at Inquirer Building, the bag was abandoned by a woman who ambled past shortly after 5 a.m.

"It looked suspicious so I put the video on her," said the 17-year veteran who was working the overnight shift.

He followed her moves on monitors, instead of going outside. "She looked kind of upset and frustrated from carrying the bag," he said. "So I didn't want to disturb her."

Before the bomb squad arrived, he replayed part of the footage. The dark-haired woman, who seemed to be in her early 40s, was dressed in a baggy shirt, jeans and sneakers. She slumped and strained, as as struggled with the bag, putting down several times just in the 100 or so yards between the two buildings.

Finally, she just left the brown leather bag and kept walking, he said.

Police viewing the video later talked of matching the woman's face to a photo and a name found in the bag, according to another guard.

Officer Yoland Dawkins, however, said she couldn't confirm any details about the contents of the bag.

By 9 a.m., school district workers were allowed back inside and Broad Street was reopened.

To view part of the security video, go to http://go.philly.com/bagscare.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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